The Batman Adventures Annual #1
DC Comics (1994)“Going Straight” & “Laughter After Midnight” WRITER: Paul Dini artists listed next to stories they worked on COLORIST: Rick Taylor (except for Joker story, then Bruce Timm) LETTERING: Comicraft ASSISTANT EDITOR: Darren Vincenzo EDITOR: Scott Peterson
This is a collection of short stories that (except for the Joker tale) follows the theme of Bat-villains trying to go straight and for each it doesn’t end well but in different ways. Each story has their own artist or artists, who will be listed next to each title. (Bruce Timm does the art for the narrative bridge that begins the story.) “Going Straight” is the name of the joined stories, while “Laughter After Midnight” is a Joker story that is independent of the rest of the anthology.
It starts with Batman capturing Roxy Rocket (who I found out on Friday was created for this comic so I had to rush over and add that tidbit), followed by a news report of her parole, claiming she’ll go straight from now on. Batman and Alfred discuss all of the other villains who tried to give up a life of crime and in each case something went wrong or they were just full of it.
The Ventriloquist: “Puppet Show” (artists: Mike Parobeck & Matt Wagner)
For example, Arnold Weskler tries to go straight, joining a kids show by taking over the puppetry of Croaky the Frog. When the show is about the be canceled the host, learning who Weskler was, has a new Scarface puppet made so that he’ll bump off the director to keep her from being replaced with a Power Rangers clone. However, “Croaky” represents Arnold’s good side and considers him a friend, so warns the cops, who calls in Batman. A fight ensues between the two puppets, the two identities the Ventriloquist has created, and “Croaky” is “killed” in a car crash. It’s a sad tale and sadly not the only time Arnold’s been forced to take back Scarface.
Harley Quinn: “24 Hours” (artists: Dan DeCarlo & Bruce Timm)
Timm must have done backgrounds because the character look more like Archie characters, like Betty is playing Harley. This is a silent one (except for one word in the last panel). The moment Harley gets out of Arkham she’s immediately snatched up by the Joker, goes on a crime spree, and gets put back in Arkham when Batman shows up. This is more like the Harley Quinn we know and love that the version we have today.
The Scarecrow: “Study Hall” (artist: Klaus Janson)
Tired of fighting Batman, Crane escapes Arkham, forges a new identity as an English teacher at a small college, and settles into his new life. At least until a favored student comes to his doorstep after being raped (hidden well for the target age group but we older readers know what it was). Thus he reverts to type, trying to make the rapist as scarred as the woman was. While he succeeds, Batman arrives before Scarecrow can kill him. Both parties are arrested. It’s hard to not be on Scarecrow’s side but as usual he went too far. Probably the best story in the set, but they’ve all been good thus far.
Back with the bridge, security footage shows Roxy stealing again, but Batman recognizes Catwoman’s body language and goes to stop her. So does Roxy, trying to clear her name. They recover the loot but Catwoman gets away. It’s a good end to this part of the story.
The Joker: “Laughter After Midnight” (penciler: John Byrne; inker: Rick Burchett)
Unconnected from the other story (Joker? Go straight? That’s a laugh (pun intended), Joker get beaten by Batman but manages to get away. So he goes on a little killing spree. This felt out-of-place for this issue and I’m not sure if it keeps up with the DCAU or not. It’s a decent story but just doesn’t work here. I’m guessing Dini just really wanted to do a Joker story and obviously couldn’t fit it into the theme.
This annual had tales that are more in keeping with the show’s style than the previous issues I’ve reviewed (save for the Mask Of The Phantasm adaptation, of course) and some good Batman tales in general. It’s worth picking up.